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Cleaning canvas shoes

Have your favourite canvas shoes seen better days? Don't invest in a new pair just yet, discover how to clean canvas shoes with our simple guide.


how to clean canvas shoes

To find out how to clean canvas shoes, start by taking a look at the material they are made from. Leather or suede shoes will require specialist cleaners. Canvas or cotton shoes with suede detailing should also be cleaned with suede and fabric shampoo according to the instructions on the shoe label. It’s important that suede and leather shoes are not cleaned with detergent or submerged in water, as this can damage and discolour the material. For information on cleaning suede or nubuck shoes, have a look at our handy guide to cleaning suede. 

You have several options when cleaning canvas shoes. Machine-washing them is quick and easy, but risks discolouration and a weakening of the glue that holds the shoes together. Hand washing takes a bit longer, but is a good way of helping your favourite shoes last. Simply applying and wiping or brushing off a specialist cleaning product, as with leather or suede shoes, may also be effective for shoes of mixed fabrics.

Cleaning canvas shoes in a washing machine can be a noisy business – if you do decide to machine wash your canvas shoes, throw a couple of towels in with your shoes to protect your appliance and prevent clunking noises.

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Cleaning canvas shoes by hand

Whichever method you plan to use, first of all let the shoes dry, and shake off as much excess dust and dirt as you can. Remove the laces, and wash these separately in a normal laundry load with similarly coloured clothing.

You will need:

  • A bucket
  • Warm water
  • Mild laundry detergent
  • A toothbrush, or a washing-up sponge
  • An old towel
  • Waste paper
  • Fill a bucket with warm water, and make a lather with 1-2 tbsp (15-30 ml) of mild laundry detergent – a liquid detergent like OMO Ultra is ideal. If you are using a powdered detergent, swirl it around until it is mostly dissolved and bubbles appear.
  • Hold each shoe above the bucket and scrub the outside, including the soles, with a toothbrush or washing-up sponge. Gently dip the shoes in the water to wash off the dirt and continue scrubbing – avoid submerging the shoes entirely
  • Rinse your shoes with warm, clean water.
  • Use an old towel to squeeze any excess water from the shoes.
  • Stuff your shoes with paper or similar to preserve their shape.
  • Leave the shoes to dry in the sun (if possible) or in a warm, dry place indoors – away from any direct heat source. Direct heat can weaken the glue used to hold this kind of shoe together, and affect the texture of the canvas.

Cleaning canvas shoes in the machine

You will need:

  • A washing machine
  • Mild laundry detergent
  • A mild pre-wash treatment for any major stains
  • Waste paper
  • Pre-treat any stains if present, following the instructions on the label of your chosen product. Depending on the stain, you may not have to buy a specialist cleaner: some liquid laundry detergents can be used as a mild but effective pre-treatment.
  • Set your washing machine to a gentle cycle with cool water.
  • Add half the usual dose of mild detergent.
  • Allow machine to finish its cycle as normal.
  • Remove your shoes from the washing machine and allow them to dry in the sun, stuffed with paper or similar to preserve their shape. It’s possible to dry shoes in a tumble dryer with some old towels, but bear in mind this is tough on both dryer and shoes, and may weaken the glue holding the shoes together.

That’s it – just remember to let your newly clean shoes dry properly before wearing them!

Originally published